A Productive Guide to Positive Parenting

If I were to ask you what is your main hope for your child….would it be… “that they are happy?”

mother and child

It is a great responsibility don’t you think, to make that our No 1 aim of Parenting? I personally think that it’s too much responsibility to feel responsible for our children’s happiness but we can do so much to promote their own growth towards it. It is the difference that makes a difference. The clients I work with everyday worry about their child being happy, asking themselves, am I doing the right thing? But a Positive Parenting approach does lead to your child having a greater chance of Happiness amidst the current evidence of Mental Health statistics:

  • 1 in 4 adults will experience a Mental Health difficulty at some point in our lives, and for children that figure is 1 in 10.
  • One quarter of us will give up on our hopes and dreams
  • There has been an increase of 70% in rates of depression in teenagers in the last 25 years (Mental Health Foundation).

A Unicef survey, rather worringly, rated the UK as bottom in the ranking for children’s wellbeing. But we can change this, can’t we?

unhappy child

I have 4 children and we as a family experienced that 1 in 4 statistic, when my son had a breakdown between the 2nd and third year of University. I shared my story of this in the talk and the  reason I shared it,  is because I wholeheartedly feel that using Positive Parenting strategies during this episode, really helped his recovery . It is never too late to implement, but it takes a change of mindset. No matter how bleak things seem, it is never too late to try .

I am not just telling you what I think, or quote the text books per se, but what I know to be true, from my own personal experience, my own learnings and study and from the results and testimonials of my coaching. There is so much evidence provided by research led by neuro scientists and psychiatrists about the advantages of Positive Parenting. One area of research has been in helping children with ADHD and one of the key findings is that Authoritarian approach is very damaging and an Authoritative approach is suggested.

A quote from a recent publication by the NSPCC states:

“Positive Parenting uses techniques that work well for every child. These techniques build on your child’s wish to please you, the importance of listening, and, above all, loving your child- leading to a better behaved, happy child and less stressed parents.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recommending that  Parenting is now a public health issue and cites:

“warm, authoritative and responsive parenting is crucial in building resilience”.

child with parents

I don’t know about you but when my children were little, I didn’t consciously follow Parenting manuals, I sort of bumbled along, talking to friends when I faced a problem, I’m a creative think out of the box person when it comes to overcoming challenges but what I did unconsciously do was respond to the individual and unique character in front of me. I didn’t do one size fits all style of parenting and so subconsciously I was following the principles of Positive Parenting without realising it in that respect, but I did use punishment, notably, the naughty step.  I will refer to this again a bit later on, to explain why it is now thought to be damaging to a child’s emotional wellbeing.

So what is Positive or Authoritative Parenting?

It isn’t a set of rules, it’s a style,   a philosophy, a mindset and a way of being. It’s not a behavioural management system, but it tunes into your wisdom and your authentic self.

It begins with gentleness and ends in instruction. (R Eames)

Why is it different to traditional forms of parenting?

Here I will explain what the 3 main types of Parenting styles are:

Authoritarian:  a style which promotes rules and punishment for the breaking of those rules. The problem with this approach is that it completely ignores emotion and the reasons behind specific behaviours. It promotes dis-connection as love becomes conditional on good behaviour. Punishment adds to negative feelings that drive poor behaviour and builds resentment. It ruins self esteem as we behave often how we see ourselves and learn SHAME. You can’t help children by making them feel worse.

You can’t punish in good behaviour. You can’t punish away a need.

Neither does it help children learn from their mistakes. The worse the behaviour, the bigger the punishment until apathy is reached. I guess some of us here were parented this way so sometimes we can do the opposite as a result which is:

Permissive: a style which is without boundaries, a laissez fairre attitude. The problem with this approach is that children don’t feel secure and it doesn’t build good skills for future relationships as It doesn’t teach children how to connect with others .

Something has to replace punishment to avoid permissiveness so

Authoritative or Positive: is a style which uses boundaries as discipline to teach positive behaviours. It builds strong emotional connection by being able to connect with the feelings that are driving poor behaviours. Emotional connection and strong attachment is at it’s heart. It builds trusting and respectful relationships that meets the needs of the whole family.

It is a philosophy that both respects the needs of children and parents. It embraces the WHOLE family.

To offer you a flavour I’d like to give you The Weller Way’s  ABC of Positive Parenting:

A       For Authenticity

You have permission to parent the child in front of you, not the one everybody else has, or the one you’d like to have. YOUR CHILD IS YOUR MANUAL, this helps you trust your gut and intuition, to build a unique relationship

By using discipline as learning opportunities you are Role Modelling: your values, what you hold to be true, not anyone else.

B       For Boundaries

The word discipline comes from the latin word disciple, meaning to teach. You are teaching them how to manage themselves. Therefore using discipline to help a child solve a problem or learn from their mistakes creates someone who is much more emotionally resilient and able to cope with challenges by being able to problem solve. It frees the brain to learn the lesson you want to teach. As oppose to using punishment, which makes a child suffer for having a problem and doesn’t help them access the rational part of the brain. Using time out in the form of the naughty chair or step as a consequence doesn’t work in the long run because it doesn’t teach the lesson you want your child to learn. Do you think your child is sitting there thinking, how could I do things differently or do you think he is sitting there plotting revenge!?!?

For children younger than 4, problem solving is too much too expect with their young brains, so holding the limit and removing them from the situation or the object that is causing the problem is enough. But you can teach them what to do instead, so we become their “upper” rational brain until they are old enough to do this themselves.

C       For Connection

Which brings me on to managing behavioural challenges through your relationship. As I said earlier all behaviour is driven by feelings, thoughts and emotions, so by connecting through empathy, while  holding your boundaries works wonders.

There is a Sufi Wisdom saying:

You think because you understand one you will also comprehend two, but to truly understand two, you must first comprehend “and”.

It is your “and” that is unique  and special. I know that you all feel love for your child, but it’s not the amount of love you feel, it’s the  amount that they feel too. Children don’t always receive the messages of love that we give out.

holding hands

Yes, it is your emotional connection that is at the heart of joyful family living. And for the future, In all the relationships that your child has, in their romantic relationships, it is emotional connection that will be the glue that will hold the relationship together.

So bringing the ABC together, I’d like to finish with giving you a solution and a take-away tool to challenging or disrespectful behaviour:

Respond with Empathy. This allows us to see it from their point of view.

To assume makes one fume!

Identify the feelings and needs of each person:

Name it to Tame it.

Putting names to emotions builds emotional literacy so that feelings they don’t understand are buried or stuffed away.

 Develop the solution  to meet the needs of each person which ties back into teaching the lesson you want to teach…… Eventually!!

 

But before I sign off here, I  just wanted to go back to my son. When I look back at what happened, I have reflected on how the outcome could have been so devastating for us and is devastating for those families who have lost a child through suicide.

It was truly a gift to me that I discovered the benefits of Positive Parenting in my Professional and personal life, leading to the best possible work I could be doing.

If I can help any of you to avoid any pitfalls that could contribute to children struggling with low self esteem and confidence, lack of identity or challenging behaviours that are affecting your family dynamic, please get in touch.

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You can be the difference that makes a difference.